Mikkola, Mari, and . Pornography, Art and Porno-Art

2013, in Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography, ed. by Hans Maes (London: Palgrave Macmillan)

Abstract: Philosophers involved in the ‘porn-or-art’ debates standardly assume that pornography is centrally about sexual arousal, while art is about something else. I argue against this assumption and for the view that there is no single thing that pornography (or art) ‘is about’. This suggests that there is no prima facie reason for claiming that some x cannot be both pornography and art. I further go on to develop an understanding of (what I call) ‘porno-art’ – a wholly new kind of thing developing from the extant categories of pornography and art, but still distinct and separate from them.

Comment: This text can be used to introduce parts of the debate on art and pornography. The criticism it offers is interesting particularly because it focuses on non-mainstream and feminist pornography, and because it introduces a more nuanced analysis of what can be the aims of pornographers. The text can further serve a validating role for female students who might be interested to read about the existence and value of feminist pornography. Further, Mikkola’s use of Amie Thomasson’s work on artefactual kinds can serve as a good excuse to promote Thomasson’s work in class.

Patridge, Stephanie, and . Exclusivism and Evaluation: Art, Erotica and Pornography

2013, in Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography, ed. by Hans Maes (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

Content: Patridge discusses and rejects some of the main arguments for the exclusivist thesis that no pornography can be art: Levinson’s, Mag Uidhir’s, and one based on Rea’s definition of pornography. In doing so, she offers a useful overview of some other arguments already used against those authors. This leads her to conclude that at least some pornography can be art. A normative question follows: should we treat pornography as art? Given the high cultural status of art, and the often unethical nature of pornography, doing so might lead us to promoting unethical attitudes. She finds such treatment too unselective: at least some pornography isn’t morally problematic (and some of it can actually be morally laudable), while much of art, including erotic art, definitely is. But consumption of pornography cannot be taken out of our paternalistic and sexist cultural context. As most pornography is inegalitarian and expresses (and possibly promotes) harmful attitudes towards women, enjoying it constitutes a moral flaw. This is true even if the consumer is never inspired to actually harm women – in those cases enjoyment of pornography constitutes moral obliviousness, a ‘failure of sensitivity and solidarity with the victims of such imagery’ (54) similar to taking enjoyment in racist jokes.

Comment: This text offers a good and brief overview of the main points in the art and pornography debate. This makes it a good ‘one-stop-shop’ for classes which do not wish to look at it more closely. Alternatively, it can be used as an introduction to the topic and followed by some more specific papers. It also engages the normative question and offers a discussion of moral issues related to pornography. This will likely prove to be a very interesting point for class discussions.

van Brabant, Petra, and Prinz, Jesse. Why Do Porn Films Suck?

2012, in Art and Pornography: Philosophical Essays, ed. by Hans Maes and Jerrold Levinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Content: The authors present ‘the paradox of porn’: pornography seems to score very highly on various evaluative criteria which make art good (e.g. ability to elicit strong emotions), and has features similar to great art (e.g. ‘Brechtian’ acting, idealisation of the human body), yet is rarely consider art. They proceed to discuss some arguments for the exclusivist thesis, suggesting that they ‘reflect a limited knowledge of or experience with pornography’ (168). A review of various types of non-mainstream porn leads them to claim that the division between pornography and art is a false dichotomy. Section 3 revisits the paradox, offering an analysis of various reasons which could lead to so little porn being (considered) art. After rejecting most of the common arguments, the authors suggest that a great majority of porn is not art for purely contingent reasons: very few pornographers even try to pursue that possibility. But pornography has the potential to be great art, and section 4 explores the ways in which it could.

Comment: This text is a fairly easy and a very entertaining read, and is presented in a form of an intriguing and unexpected paradox. This makes it an excellent introductory reading which can really interest students in the subject. It also paints a very varied and diverse picture of pornography, reaching far beyond the mainstream images most often discussed in the literature, and likely best known to students.